And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.
Before the holidays, I was sharing with you insights I have been gleaning from my study of 1 Peter and from Alistair Begg’s recent book entitled Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. Some of the questions asked by Begg are:“What does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live? How are you going to live in this new normal?” As I noted last the last time, these are great questions, ones that the Bible has an answer.
As previously noted, as our culture and society and institutions (including Western civilization) experience further spiritual and moral declension, the greater our sense of exile will be.
However, this awakening isn’t bad. It gives us a proper perspective, a perspective that reminds us of the reality that all along America has never been Jerusalem, but Babylon. And second, this awakening isn’t bad because it forces us to long for heaven, especially for the creation of the new heavens and earth when Christ returns to bring heaven to earth after He has destroyed every kingdom of man. As D. L. Moody noted in the late 18th century this world is shipped wrecked. The only hope for survival is to get into the lifeboat. The lifeboat is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the only hope for safe passage is Jesus and His church!
Today we’ll talk about how and where we must “draw the line” as we engage our society and culture. Are we as Christian obligated to draw a line at some point between us and the world? Most Christians assume we do. But where exactly are we to draw the line? At first glance this may seem easy, but it’s not. Consider again the prophet Daniel and his three friends. Neither Daniel, nor his three friends protested their pagan education after being forcefully relocated from their home country of Judah to Babylon. They dutifully studied the worldview of Babylon, along with its science, literature, mathematics, etc. Second, they did not protest their new pagan names: Daniel became Belteshazzar; Hananiah became Shadrach; Mishael became Meshach; and Azariah became Abednego. The purpose of renaming these young men was to refashion them from being committed to Israel and Israel’s God to being committed to Babylon and Babylon’s gods, to being good Babylonian citizens and servants.
You would think that these young men would have protested and drew the line there. On the contrary, they did not. However, we are told they did protest and resist changing their diet. Seems like a strange place to draw a line. Why did they draw the line there? The reason why is that from a Jewish perspective one’s diet was just as much about one’s faith as it was about nutrition. Daniel and his three friends grew up as religiously devout Jews in religiously devout homes. And devout Jews were particular about what they would eat. The reason is because God had explicitly commanded through the Mosaic Law what one could eat and what one could not eat. These “Ceremonial laws” were morally binding because God commanded them. The reason why Daniel and his three friends drew the line there is because Scripture drew it for them. Scripture is explicit that the food offered to idols at the King’s table was ceremonially unclean. And to eat food that God has forbidden was a line they would not transgress. In short, God drew the line for them. Alistair Begg makes the point that this “…kind of resolution doesn’t come just as a whim. It doesn’t come overnight; it doesn’t well up in a moment of challenge. Crisis shows what’s inside of a person; it doesn’t create it as much as reveal it.”
Beloved this is true for us as well. We may never experience a crisis on par to what Daniel and his three friends faced, but crises will come into our lives from one degree to another. The question is how do we prepare? We prepare the same way Daniel and his three friends prepared. First, we prepare by knowing Scripture. We must be able to discern the difference between what is a nonnegotiable and what is negotiable. This requires both knowledge of the Word and wisdom in prayer: i.e., God speaking to us in his Word, and we speaking to God in prayer. Second, we must know that God is in control. In every fiber of their being these young men knew, no matter what the circumstances were, that God was in absolute sovereign control of those circumstances: God was in control of their relocation; God was in control of their reeducation; and God was in control of their renaming. And God is in control of every circumstance and situation you are going through. Though we live in a post-Christian and hostile world, we can take heart that God is still in control! And He will continue to be with you and never forsake you. We have nothing to fear, nothing to dismay us!